Guest Opinion | June 13, 2008 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - June 13, 2008

Guest Opinion

How do you drive with your dog?

by Melanie Sadek

Assemblyman Bill Maze introduced legislation this session that could potentially affect how you transport your dog(s). If passed, Assembly Bill 2233 makes driving a motor vehicle while holding a live animal illegal. This legislation is actually a good idea for both the driver and the dog. I'll explain.

Drivers take crash dynamics for granted. We drive thousands of miles and rarely get involved in a crash. Because of this, we take risks. We drive too quickly, we talk on the phone, we eat, and much, much more. Unfortunately, car crashes aren't always predictable and though most of us consider ourselves safe drivers, we have no control over the drivers around us.

Let's estimate that an average vehicle speed is 25 mph. If you get into a frontal impact, your vehicle starts to slow down immediately, but your body continues to travel 25 mph towards the point of impact. You continue to move until you come in contact with something that will slow you down. For most of us, the seatbelt slows us down. For the unrestrained, it is the steering wheel or the windshield and pavement. In addition, the faster you are moving and the heavier you are, the more force you exert in the crash. You can roughly estimate this force by multiplying your weight by the speed you are traveling. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds and are traveling 25 mph, you will exert approximately 3,750 pounds of force in a crash. Dogs experience the same crash forces, but they are rarely restrained.

If you drive with your dog in your lap and you need to stop suddenly, your seatbelt will keep you in your seat, but your dog could fly into your pedal area restricting their use. If your airbag deploys, the crash would be deadly for your dog and potentially deadly for you if the bag can't protect you properly.

It is tragic to lose your dog in a crash, especially a survivable one. Dogs should be restrained in a vehicle like regular occupants. This is for the dog's safety and the safety of everyone in the vehicle. I'm not suggesting California should pass a law requiring seatbelts for dogs, but dog owners should be aware of the risk their dogs face along with the risk to themselves and other passengers. An unrestrained dog traveling through the passenger compartment can severely injure or kill occupants.

There are numerous options to help you properly restrain your furry family member. Though there are a number of items on the market, a majority of them have never been crash-tested. There are no federal requirements for dog harnesses, so companies aren't required to test their product. Research your options before you purchase a restraint.

Maze's legislation was introduced to eliminate driver distraction, but I believe it goes further. Our dogs are family members and protecting them should be a priority.

Melanie Sadek is an expert in occupant protection with 14 years experience in the traffic safety field and certifications from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. She is also the owner of Murphy's Paw, a new dog boutique on Main Street in downtown Pleasanton.


Posted by Grace, a resident of Highland Oaks
on Jun 19, 2008 at 9:51 pm

Dear Ms. Sadek -- Thank you, thank you, thank you. Finally, someone who dares to state the obvious: cute little dogs are NOT accessories to complement and enhance their owner's status, sharp wheels, or good looks. Rather, they are to be loved and protected, and that means not risking their lives by placing them on laps for all eyes to admire and fingers to point: "what a cute picture the two of them make... awwwww, do you see that? Isn't that precious?"